Awards

Meet Your 2022 Award Winners

Minnesota’s Director of the Year
Vickie Speltz, Food Service Director of Lewiston-Altura ISD 857 Schools

The non-profit Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) is proud to announce that Vickie Speltz, Food Service Director of Lewiston-Altura ISD 857 Schools, has been named Minnesota Director of the Year. The award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of school nutrition directors who manage effective school meal programs providing healthy, appetizing meals to students.

Speltz has spent more than 25 years as a school nutrition professional. At the onset of the COVID pandemic, Speltz made sure children in the community and surrounding communities received nutritious meals. Her outreach connected families to healthy meals at no cost, providing nourishment for those struggling and taking a burden off of local families at a stressful and unpredictable time. She has always gone above and beyond to make sure children in the community are well taken care of. She has boundless energy when it comes to caring for kids.

Speltz recognized there was opportunity in partnerships as rising food and supply costs impacted nutrition programs significantly in recent years. As a dairy farmer herself, Speltz understood the financial benefits a co-op can bring to farmers, schools, small businesses and the community. Under her leadership Lewiston-Altura schools joined nine other districts to form a regional School Food Purchasing Co-Op. Members purchase items from local farms and small businesses to the benefit of the students, who now have a larger selection of fresh and vegetable options in school meals.

Speltz takes every opportunity to promote the nutrition department to the community. During parent-teacher conferences, in the past she has organized a food show for parents to sample school lunches and ask questions about the meals their children are eating.

She is credited with saving district funds and jobs in the community following the proposal for a management company to take over operations of the district’s nutrition department.

“Vickie Speltz is a mentor to others in school nutrition. She creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and teamwork between her district departments, booster clubs and community and is a champion for her students,” said MSNA President Carrie Frank.

In addition to her work for Lewiston-Altura ISD 857 Schools, Speltz is an active MSNA member. She has held several positions on the executive board, including serving as a past president, and is currently the Secretary/Treasurer. Speltz takes part in the Minnesota Department of Health’s mental health training programs, to help bring awareness for students of all ages experiencing distress. She teaches a grant writing class to help directors apply for funding to benefit their school nutrition programs.

Speltz will be recognized as part of celebrations surrounding national School Lunch Hero Day on May 6. She will also be honored when MSNA members meet for their Annual Conference in Saint Cloud, August 7-10, 2022.

 

Minnesota’s Manager of the Year
Tracy Alexander, Business Systems Manager for Saint Paul Public Schools’ nutrition services department

The non-profit Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) is proud to announce that Tracy Alexander, Business Systems Manager for Saint Paul Public Schools’ nutrition services department, has been named Minnesota Manager of the Year. The award recognizes the dedication, ingenuity and compassion shown by SNA members who have excelled in keeping students fed during the pandemic.

Alexander has worked tirelessly this school year to ensure students in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) have healthy and exciting food options to nourish their school days. Like many districts, SPPS has faced extensive supply chain shortages and Alexander made it her mission to find new vendors to meet the needs of their diverse student population. When a vendor shorted a tortilla order for a school, she went to a restaurant supply store to make sure there was enough for all students.

Tracy Alexander was an integral part of the team that organized a home delivery system when Saint Paul Public Schools closed during the pandemic. The team brought an estimated 20 million meals to homes in the community and she worked to ensure appropriate and culturally relevant meals were sent to the district’s 37,000 students. Alexander also helped design a food truck and develop a menu for the delivery of meals to low income families. The truck has been invaluable to reach previously underserved members of the community.

Recognizing technology is an important part of the day for school nutrition staff, Alexander created virtual and in-person training systems to help employees optimize their performance by learning new skills.

“Tracy Alexander has been an asset to her school nutrition program and shown great leadership during these past few challenging years. We are proud to recognize her commitment to her students and the community,” said MSNA President Carrie Frank.

Alexander has been a member of the state and national School Nutrition Association for nearly a decade. She recognizes the importance of professional development and training for her staff.

Alexander will be recognized on May 6, 2022, as part of national School Lunch Hero Day. She will also be honored in August when MSNA members meet for their Annual Conference in Saint Cloud.

 

Minnesota’s Employee of the Year
Marilyn Veryzer, Nutrition Assistant at Johnsville Elementary,  Anoka-Hennepin Schools

 The non-profit Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) is proud to announce that Marilyn Veryzer, Nutrition Assistant at Johnsville Elementary, Anoka-Hennepin Schools has been named Minnesota’s Employee of the Year. The award recognizes the valuable contribution of school nutrition employees, ones who exhibit a remarkable commitment to both their school meal program and the students they serve.

The little things Marilyn Veryzer does makes a big difference for her co-workers. She has brought her skills from other jobs to the school nutrition department at Johnsville Elementary. From suggestions of new ways to wrap sandwiches to keep the bread soft and the sandwich hot to her willingness to try new things. Veryzer is an important part of the team. She has an ability to listen to her customers and serve their unique requests to make them happy and feel extra special.

Veryzer is always willing to help her team members. Her high level of energy is extraordinary and always brings a great level of positivity to work. When there is a free minute, Veryzer doesn’t let it go to waste, whether it is helping with dishes, organizing the freezer, filling silverware containers and refilling the fruits and vegetables. She is the ultimate team member, and just because something is not her duty that day she doesn’t care she’ll pitch in anyways.

“Marilyn Veryzer has been a school nutrition professional for almost two decades. The level of customer service she brings to the job has been noticed by her co-workers and supervisors. She is always on the go and willing to share her knowledge with others,” said SNA President Carrie Frank.

Marilyn Veryzer is an active member of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA). She attends the Annual Conference held yearly in Saint Cloud. She also takes online training courses to continue her professional education.
Veryzer will be recognized by the MSNA on May 6, 2022 as part of the national School Lunch Hero Day. She will also be honored in August when MSNA members meet for their Annual Conference in Saint Cloud.

 

MSNA Award Winners

 

MSNA Hero Award
Mackenzie Herbst, Kitchen Assistant at Foley High School

The statewide, non-profit Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) has named Mackenzie Herbst, Kitchen Assistant at Foley High School in Foley Public Schools I.S.D. #51, its 2022 Hero Award Winner. The award recognizes an individual that goes above and beyond each day at their job.

Mackenzie Herbst has spent more than a decade in the school nutrition field and is an integral part of the team at Foley High School. Her supervisors say she is the type of employee that they can assign any job to and be confident it will get done. 

Herbst’s dedication to her job is apparent in many ways. The students she serves know they can come to her with special dietary needs and that she always goes that extra mile to ensure they are taken care of.  Herbst enjoys coming up with new and fun ways to make school breakfast and lunch appealing to students, while balancing their nutritional needs.

Herbst is the first staff member the students interact with as they come in the door to pick up breakfast.  The principal of Foley High School appreciates that Herbst always greets them with familiarity, warmth and a welcoming smile as they get their meals.

“School nutrition programs are successful when they have dedicated staff members who prioritize their students’ needs, and Mackenzie Herbst is a great example of that. She faces daily challenges with a positive attitude and makes her students feel welcome in the cafeteria,” said MSNA President, Carrie Frank.

Mackenzie Herbst was presented the award on May 6, 2022, as part of the national School Lunch Hero Day. She will also be honored in August when MSNA members meet for their Annual Conference in Saint Cloud.

MSNA Hero Site Award
Edgerton Elementary, Roseville Area Schools

The statewide, non-profit Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA) has named the nutrition staff at Edgerton Elementary School, Roseville Area Schools, its 2022 Hero Site Award Winner. The award  recognizes excellence in teamwork, creativity and customer service.

The team of  Tiffany Emerson, Kitchen Manager, Brenda Lavalle-Davis, Nutrition Services Assistant, Sandra Landaverde, Nutrition Services Assistant, Melissa Salinas, Nutrition Services Assistant and the late Sandra Steward are described as going the extra mile and bringing their best service to the forefront.

At Edgerton Elementary School there are a large number of students with special diet needs. As a team they work closely with each student, nurse and parents to make sure the children feel comfortable talking to the nutrition staff about their needs. The team works hard to make sure all the children in the school are eating foods they enjoy and feel like they are all included in the school cafeteria experience.  The team has worked tirelessly to help those picky eaters expand their choices.

The school nutrition staff at Edgerton Elementary School had a goal; increase breakfast participation. They presented school leadership with a plan for new breakfast ideas and ways to implement them. They were able to achieve their goal, breakfast participation is up 15%.

This team has been a great support system for each other and the school community. This year they endured two unexpected deaths, their beloved principal and nutrition services staff member, Sandra Steward. Throughout the sadness felt in the school, the team remained a consistent presence for the student body.

“The team at Edgerton Elementary School is a perfect example of the intrical part of a school a nutrition team is. Their commitment to the students, each other and providing quality food does not go unnoticed,” said MSNA President Carrie Frank.

Tiffany Emerson, Brenda Lavalle-Davis, Sandra Landaverde, Melissa Salinas, and the late Sandra Steward will be recognized by the MSNA on May 6, 2022 as part of the national School Lunch Hero Day. They will also be honored in August when MSNA members meet for their Annual Conference in Saint Cloud.

About the MSNA Awards

  • MSNA Hero Award: Recognizes an individual that goes above and beyond each day at their job. This award is for individuals and they must be nominated by any staff member within the school district. Self-nominations are not accepted. The nominated member must be a SNA/MSNA member and a school nutrition employee. Directors are not eligible for this award. Multiple candidates may be nominated from each district.
  • MSNA Hero Site Award: Showcases EXCELLENCE in Teamwork, Creativity and Customer Service. Going the “Extra Mile” is a part of the team’s goals to bring their best service to the forefront. Any team of two or more may apply for this award. They must be a member of SNA/MSNA and must be employed by a school nutrition program. Application must originate and be submitted by the kitchen team.

 

About the SNA Awards

The SNA awards program is a great opportunity to highlight the outstanding and important work of SNA members and state affiliates! Members and state associations are eligible for many awards and honors that recognize their achievements in school foodservice, leadership, membership recruitment and professional development.

 Effective September 2021, the School Nutrition Association has made some major changes to the SNA Awards Program so all members can be recognized for their hard work to ensure well-nourished students across the country are prepared for success. Nominations must have been submitted online by Tuesday, March 1, 2022. 

There are SNA awards to recognize every member type:

 Employee of the Year Award
Manager of the Year Award, in honor of Louise Sublette
Director of the Year Award
National Industry Member of the Year Award

What’s Changing?

  • When you nominate for an award, there will be many new changes we hope you’ll enjoy! You will notice that the applications are now all digital and are supported through the awards platform, Submittable. This new platform will now give you as a nominator the:

    1. Ability to nominate an individual without completing the entire application
    2. Ability to collaborate with your nominee(s) on the application (optional);
    3. A streamlined application form(s); and the timeline of activities for nominees and state affiliates.

     We have also made some changes to make the awards more inclusive and accessible, so with that we are excited to announce we:

    1. Allow self-nominations.
    2. Will use an ad-hoc committee of volunteers for regional judging.
    3. Removed certificate requirement for the Employee of the Year (EOY) and Manager of the Year (MOY) Awards and will use points in the scoring rubric to give the nominee credit for having the certificate.
    4. Removed requirements for a certificate or credential and service on state or national committee or board for the Director of the Year (DOY) Award and use points in the scoring rubric to give the nominee credit for having these qualifications.
    5. Shortened the membership requirement to three (3) years for the DOY Award.

If you have any questions regarding awards process, please contact Members Service Chair, Loriann Landowski, [email protected]